Settlement reached in suit over Brier development/ Kenmore News
March 29, 2010 · 5:15 PM
While it is still not happy with the overall development, a Kenmore environmental group has reached a tentative settlement with the developers of a proposed residential complex on the Brier side of Kenmore’s border with that city.
In connection with the agreement, at the request of developer Phoenix Development Inc., Brier City Council on March 23 unanimously passed a variance allowing for shorter driveways in the 13.7-acre, 29-lot Sunbrook development.
President of the grassroots People for an Environmentally Responsible Kenmore (PERK), Elizabeth Mooney said the shorter driveways mean less impervious surface in the housing project, which should mean less water runoff.
Mooney said that just as importantly, the shorter driveways will leave room for creation of native growth protection areas, basically areas for promotion of native vegetation.
PERK had brought suit against Phoenix Development under the state’s Land Use Petition Act. The filing basically asked the court to reverse some of Brier’s decisions regarding Sunbrook, possibly forcing Phoenix to complete an environmental impact study of the housing project.
Brier has ruled the construction environmentally insignificant.
PERK’s lawsuit was scheduled for an initial hearing in Snohomish County Superior Court next month. Besides winning some protection for native growth, PERK also will receive a monetary settlement to be used for enhancement of a waterway known mostly by its number designation, Stream 0056. PERK long has contended 0056 will be directly and negatively affected by Sunbrook.
Stream 0056 flows from Brier into Log Boom Park and, ultimately, Lake Washington. Along the way, it passes close to the Harbor Village Marina housing development in Kenmore. That existing development suffered significant flooding in the past when 0056 overflowed and some contend water runoff from Sunbrook only will worsen the overall problem.
Mooney said the terms of the agreement with Phoenix prevent her from discussing the amount of the monetary award included in the settlement. She said the dollars mostly likely will go into some high-profile area, such as Log Boom Park or Abbeyview Cemetery. PERK hopes to supplement the settlement money with state or federal grant dollars.
The variance granted by Brier City Council cut 11 driveways by 10 feet, reducing them to 25 feet. Mooney described the affected portion of the development as very small.
“We would have liked to have seen more,” Mooney said. “I mean much more... On the other hand, lawsuits can go on and on and people can spend a lot of money.”
Mooney repeated several times that the money to be paid by Phoenix will not be used to cover PERK’s legal fees. Mooney said PERK obtained some pro-bono work, but personal contributions will pay for any bills related to the Phoenix lawsuit.
Neither Phoenix nor Brier officials have returned phone calls on the controversy over Sunbrook.
In addition to PERK, that controversy has attracted attention from elected Kenmore officials. Citing many of the same concerns outlined by PERK, Kenmore Mayor David Baker and others have said the city intended to make a formal complaint to the Central Puget Sound Growth Management Hearings Board regarding Brier’s approval of Sunbrook.
Kenmore leaders dropped those plans after talks with their Brier counterparts.
“We wanted to give Brier the opportunity to work with us,” Baker said.
More recently, city Manager Frederick Stouder said he would be meeting with Brier officials shortly to discuss an update of that city’s critical-areas ordinance.
As in other municipalities, Brier’s critical-areas ordinance helps govern how the city deals with environmental issues such as water runoff. Some Kenmore officials contend Brier’s rules are out-of-date and led to improper approval of the Sunbrook project.
But both Stouder and Baker said Brier leaders intend, over the next few months, to take a look at their environmental rules.
Kenmore City Councilman John Hendrickson has been critical of the city’s response to Sunbrook. He said Kenmore undoubtedly suffers from flooding and environmental issues, but he’s not convinced his city’s environmental rules are all they could be. With that in mind, he said there was no justification for creating an adversarial relationship with Brier.
According to Hendrickson, if officials used the best available science, laws would require 300-foot buffers or setbacks around all waterways. If King County tried to retroactively enforce such setbacks, he added, thousands of homes and businesses in the county would need to be vacated and replaced with vegetation.
Hendrickson said that, obviously, he does not advocate such a step.
“I’m just pointing out some of the challenges that we face,” he said.